Terror of the Autons part 2

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This topic contains 17 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  Rewvian 5 months, 3 weeks ago.

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    Craig @craig

    The Master’s devious plan to kill the Doctor continues as he develops a new, deadly plastic. Jo, disappointed at her failure, follows the Doctor as he investigates at the circus, Robert Holmes’ replacement for the music hall in Talons.

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    Whenever I see the fate of McDermott, the Monty Python line “oh no! Not the comfy chair!!” leaps to mind. I suppose fan consciousness always locks the Autons as animated shop window mannequins, but I admire Holmes for trying different sort of approaches for plastic initiated death in this story. When you consider how prevalent plastic has become, you can’t help but feel there is a lot of unexplored potential for the Nestenes.

    The story is a bit of a slave to the production values off the time, but its worth dwelling on the impact of this story, as there was a bit of a media furore surrounding it. The Commissioner of the Met said the reveal of the policemen as Autons had “set back community policing by a decade”. The more cynical among us would suggest that, in the 70s, setting back community policing was entirely the remit of the Police force.

    It culminated in a very boring debate in the House of Lords on the effect of TV on the nation, with Doctor Who being mentioned a lot, and this serial (the Doll, and the Policeman) being cited as “too scary for children”. As they pontificated on the issues, I’m sure it never occurred to them that they were contributing to the best free advertising pitch in history. Viewing figures did very well.

    Anonymous @

    Again, for me, there’s an element of ‘noooo, that’s not how I imagined it’ to this episode but I do think that The Chair is still kinda creepy. And I love the mighty Harry Towb’s ‘it looks like a black puddin’ line.

    Interesting to see that race representations in Who have moved on not a jot from Tomb of the Cybermen in this episode with Big Tony making Toberman look positively enlightened.

    But a cracking cliffhanger. One of the all-time greats…

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    @jimthefish – A quick check of Wikipedia reveals that Terror of the Autons was broadcast less than three and a half years since Tomb of the Cybermen, so nope, race relations haven’t moved on.  In fact, they may have gone backwards:  Roy Stewart was probably thinking that, at least, he had lines when he played Toberman.

    @phaseshift – I’d heard that there were complaints about the doll – since it appears to be the kind of thing that would give kids nightmares even without coming to life, I’m not quite sure why. The chair was a bit too obviously being manipulated by Harry Towb for me, but that was probably my ‘adult’ eye.

    And I’d agree that many police forces in the Seventies seemed to be trying to make the Autons look good.

    Anonymous @

    @phaseshift and @bluesqueakpip — I must admit that I’ve always half had in mind seeking out a black inflatable chair to put in my lounge to freak out Whovians when they come to visit…

    Must get around to that…

    Anonymous @

    Hi @bluesqueakpip – I’ve deleted the ‘span’ junk from your post.

    @jimthefish @phaseshift and Bluey – yeah, I too thought the actor in the Auton chair was a little too obviously pulling it around himself at one point.  But that doll … creepy creepy creepy.  And thanks Phase for the context you provided with the media furore and the HoL debate – don’t they have better things to be discussing in there?!

    And @craig – nice link to Talons with the circus replacement for the music hall.  With everyone’s comments whilst viewing these BG eps, I’m really starting to see themes developing from particular writers.

    I agree with you, Phase, that if the Nestenes’ schtick is inhabiting plastic, there’s so much more to explore beyond shop window dummies and inflatable chairs.  Think what a clever writer could do with the ubiquitous carrier bag …  🙂  … and there’s even a hook for the story in charging for bags nowadays which means fewer are used so the Nestenes would have to evolve/adapt in the storyline.

    Anonymous @

    @shazzbot et al — I always thought that the Nestenes were a curiously specific alien. Colonised a thousand worlds but only ones with a flourishing plastics industry…

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    @jimthefish – available from Argos (other outlets are available), to freak out your friends and family everywhere.


    Anonymous @

    @bluesqueakpip – you beat me to it!  I knew there were black plastic chairs for @jimthefish to adorn his front room with.   (Just … don’t sit in them on a hot day wearing shorts.  I speak from experience  😀 )

    Jim et al, I missed a trick with my plastic carrier bag mooted storyline – surely ‘bag for life’ is ripe for comic detail in a new Nestene story?

    ScaryB @scaryb

    Agree with everyone re the potential for a modern take on the Nestene’s affilitaion for plastic in general.  Maybe not so much the chairs (you can see where the AG bin idea came from!)

    Ha! You lot can laugh but the autons terrified me at the time, and the “ANY plastic” line was as effective as the AG “ANY shadow” (SitL) line. it didn’t help that we also had one of those black plastic inflatable chairs – fortunately I wasn’t watching the episode from it (cue much role playing after of being suffocated by chair! (Not easy – they tend to keep spilling you off)).

    The doll was very creepy – this was pre-Chucky but very much part of a spooky voodoo-style tradition from Hammer films, Avengers etc. Funny, it never occurred to me at the time that the massive flaw in this plan is the driver turning down the heat, LOL (I was too busy hiding behind the plastic chair!)

    The plastic theme is part of a strong green-environmental trend in Pertwee’s episodes. For all his seeming to be part of the establishment he doesn’t miss an opportunity to have a “dig” at militarist solutions.

    And yes, much extra publicity from the HoL debate and the redoubtable Mary Whitehouse. They cottoned on eventually but it took a remarkably long time. Community policing? Don’t remember much of that that in the 70s 😈 Maybe if the police had looked and behaved less like plastic replicants they would have had less of a problem!

    Rewvian @rewvian

    I came here to talk about “The Three Doctors”, but there doesn’t seem to be an episode topic for it.  : /

    I just watched through the old special and generally enjoyed it.  This was my first brush with the Bridgadier and Omega.  Both characters are probably well overdue for screen time in the new series, if they haven’t received any already.  In particular, I just thought Omega would make a great villain if modernized, due to its origin as one of the time lords of old and creator of its own land.

    Seeing Troughton and Pertwee work together was also a lot of fun.  If I had one gripe about the entire special it was how dishonest the title of the special was – it was more or less just those two Doctors, and occasionally they’d speak to the first Doctor over a television monitor.

    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave


    I haven’t extended my welcome to the site yet. Welcome. The Three Doctors was the first anniversary special (10 years) so it was natural that they would want all three Doctors in the story. Unfortunately, Hartnell was very frail by that stage, hence the decision to do what they did. I am prepared to forgive its limitations for that reason. I do agree with your thoughts on Omega.

    (I suppose we should be talking about this on a thread like “The Faces of the Doctor”, but no big deal.)








    Rewvian @rewvian

    @blenkinsopthebrave Thanks for the welcome!

    So I don’t understand this website because very few of the Third Doctor’s episodes even have a forum thread, and we have multiple threads for parts of the same stories.  I don’t understand why they don’t just let users make threads on this website since we have such a good community and could easily caretake and moderate this place ourselves.

    That said, I also went on to watch Frontier in Space and Planet of the Daleks.  By this point I accept Pertwee pretty believably as The Doctor, and surmise that the change to color episodes really helped the series following the Troughton years.  Though I have only seen these three Pertwee specials thus far, I enjoyed much of what I saw.

    Frontier in Space, I unfortunately missed chunks of.  I remember less of this episode than of the other two I watched through today, but I remember it featured the Master and the Draconians.  But this was the first time I really ever got to see the first Master in action.  Robert Delgado essentially set the tone for this character, and as this was apparently his last serial, he sent the character out with the sort of foul play one would expect of the character.

    The Draconians had very well-done makeup.  And much like I said of Omega in the previous serial I watched, it would be interesting to see them make a return to the series one day in modern form.  I wish I could say I got to know the Draconians better, but because I missed several parts of the episode I can only use my imagination to fill in the blanks.  The episode also features the Ogrons, who are working with The Master for much of the episode.  I may be repeating myself by this point, but once again another set of beings that I might have liked to get to understand the motivations of better.

    That episode ended with an unexpected partnership between The Master and the Daleks, and pretty much led directly into the next serial, Planet of the Daleks.

    I’ll start by saying, I’ve still no idea what caused the Doctor to take ill at the beginning of this episode, though a gun did go off near him at the end of the previous episode.  But the episode featured a bacteria or fungus or tree sap of some kind that can make people ill, and I guess that’s what was up there.  It was interesting to see The Doctor enter a below-zero state to regenerate in that condition.

    The episode features the Thals, the human-like race from Skaro who have a history with the Daleks.  We don’t see much of these people these days, either, do we?  It also featured the Spiridons, who might have been equally interesting, but who are shown to be invisible beings in most of the episodes, sometimes wearing purple furs to stay warm on the cold planet.  The Spiridons are mostly functioning as an enslaved race to the Dalek army on the planet.

    Most of the episode revolved around people people captured by the Daleks and escaping, and the Thals attempting to set explosives in strategic places to wipe out the Daleks.  Initially they think the blast would be enough to wipe out a dozen Daleks, but it’s soon revealed by a reinforcement ship that there are over 10,000.

    Probably the most interesting part of the episode was that the Spiridon planet had molten ice within it, and produced a type of ice that always stays liquid and never freezes.  This fact becomes the key to stopping the Daleks, as it’s learned that under a certain temperature the Daleks can’t survive, or at least function and will go into stasis for centuries.  It is decided, ultimately, to use the explosives to cause a chain-reaction and flood the Dalek base with liquid ice.

    I guess if I had anything else to say it would be that Jo Grant, while not the most impactful companion to the Doctor based off of what I’ve seen, is still quite likable and has a good dynamic with the Third Doctor.  It also seems like she had a decent-length run on the show, and it’s no wonder she was anxious to go back home to Earth for a break after the events of Planet of the Daleks.  Hey, I’m not so sure I would be brave enough to break into a Dalek military base by hiding in a laundry basket, and have no real plan beyond that lined up.

    I am likely to catch some other old DW adventures one of these days.  Hopefully some of them will have their own threads to talk about them on.

    janetteB @janetteb

    @rewvian Like Blenkinsop I must apologise for the tardy welcome. The last few weeks have been very demanding and so I have been lurking not posting.

    It would be nice to have threads for all the older episodes, maybe as a series rather than the individual episodes. I think we all like to comment on an episode after watching it (or enjoy others reviews and comments) and is always good to revisit the older stories as well as the newer ones. We watched through the Pertwee stories last year as we are involved in a podcast about “classic Cult Tv” We chose The Deamons as it has both UNIT and The Master which are iconic to the Pertwee years but rarely appear together.

    Hope you are able to catch up with some more old Doctor stories soon and please review them even if there is not a dedicated thread.



    Rewvian @rewvian

    @janetteb Thanks for the welcome!  And yes, I will try to do some more though-posting as I watch more episodes.  Even if I rewatch new series episodes I’ve seen, I’d like to contribute something to the topic about it.  Especially with it being pretty much a decade since I was keeping up with the show.

    I think it’s always a fresh experience whenever series mainstays appear alongside other series mainstays.  I suppose I’ll have to be on the lookout if they show The Deamons in rotation.  It’s very likely the next time I tune in they’ll be on some other Doctor and some other season.

    Rewvian @rewvian

    So I finally got to see Frontier in Space in most of its entirety.

    One thing I’ve noticed is how anxiety-inducing some of these old episodes are.  In every single episode of the serial there is some misfortune that befalls The Doctor – being disbelieved by two empires, being captured, being imprisoned on a moon, being tricked and locked in a room without air, being held captive by The Master, being left floating in space after the police cruiser speeds forward, having Jo get kidnapped, and ultimately being shot by The Master.

    I stand by my assessment that it would be good to see more of the Draconians.  And maybe the Ogrons because why not?

    I think after this adventure The Doctor and Jo really could have used a break.  It’s funny when you realize it immediately leads into another clencher.

    janetteB @janetteb

    @rewvian Yes they really kept the tension up on max back then. The story format was almost cartoonish, all action, with very little character development. I do think that AG (after gap) Who stories tend to have a lot more depth.



    Rewvian @rewvian

    @Janette Oh most definitely.  But you know, as I keep rewatching season 1 of the revived series, I notice how anxiety-inducing it still is a lot of the time.  In almost every episode they get in over their heads.  Just at least now it isn’t happening constantly lol.

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